Skip over navigation

Graduate Summer Research Prizes


The Program in American Studies invites applications for a small number of research prizes to graduate students working towards Ph.D. degrees in departments associated with the Program.  We expect to make no more than three such awards:
Up to two prizes, each for no more than $4,000, may go to students who are not yet committed to a particular dissertation topic, but who wish to use the research award to explore in a preliminary way the possibility of working on a topic dealing with American Studies.  The expectation is that these prizes will go to students for use during their first or second summers as Ph.D. students at Princeton.  In addition to the common application, applicants for these prizes need to submit a project proposal up to five pages in length, a research budget, a letter of recommendation from a faculty advisor, a cv, and a description of how they propose to use the resources we offer.

In addition a third prize, in the amount of $5,000, may go to an exceptional post-enrollment student working on a dissertation that is seriously engaged with core American Studies themes.  In addition to the common application, an applicant for this prize needs to submit a dissertation abstract, at least one completed chapter from the dissertation, a letter of recommendation from the dissertation advisor, a cv, and a description of how the applicant intends to use the prize money.

We expect prize winners to present their work during the 2013-2014 academic year in the graduate salon of the Program in American Studies and to participate in the American Studies Workshop and in other events and activities of the Program.

The deadline for submission of all application materials is Friday, February 15 for fellowships that will be awarded by June 2013.  Applicants should submit the common application to the Graduate School office. The common application
is available on the Graduate School website.
All supporting materials should be submitted c/o the American Studies Program, 42 McCosh Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ or emailed to  The names of the recipients will be announced by mid-May 2013.


Sean Beienburg, Department of Politics.  My project seeks to provide an account of American states’ rights and federalist discourse by understanding the presence and causes of constitutional backlash from state legislators, governors, and electorates to national policies involving individual rights and liberties.   My dissertation provides a political history of such resistance to the national government after Reconstruction, rooted primarily in state legislative journals and local newspaper accounts.  I argue that constitutional opposition to the national government is continuous and deeply embedded in the American polity, but that the intensity of state constitutional resistance more closely tracks the evolution of the American party systems than it does regional or other causes. With the national parties only weakly differentiated from each other in their constitutional visions from 1880 until the New Deal, state level Republicans and Democrats alike, from both conservative and progressive wings, produced vociferous but weak constitutional resistance across a wide set of issues such as prohibition or state cooperation in national welfare policies. Previous accounts of state level constitutional politics tend to miss this ongoing resistance because they typically conclude their studies with the coming of the Civil War or focus on Washington, D.C. This tends to confine our understanding of state constitutional resistance as based in southern racial conservatism while downplaying other expressions, such as the nation’s strong progressive decentralist tradition. I conclude that with the singular, though crucial, exception of race, the North and more recently the West have actually been more likely to invoke states’ rights claims throughout American history.
Alice Cotter, Department of Music.   Since the mid-1980s when American composer John Adams, director Peter Sellars, and librettist Alice Goodman set out to make opera relevant to contemporary American experience with Nixon in China (1987), their efforts have continued to be provocative. Each of their collaborations explores among the most contentious geopolitical challenges of our times: ideological conflict in Nixon, radical Islamophobia in The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), and the threat of nuclear annihilation in Doctor Atomic (2005). My dissertation charts the genesis, compositional development, and post-premiere revision histories of Nixon, Klinghoffer, and Atomic. Relying on hitherto unknown sources from Adams’s private archive, I explore the processes and the problems that shaped each work. Among the challenges faced by the creators involved finding a means to reflect upon subjects of devastating magnitude, subjects to which, in the words of Sellars, “the bathetic failure of representational artifice is an unacceptable risk.” As a result of this ethical dilemma, the creators' strategies shifted dramatically over the span of each opera’s creation. Moreover, Adams continues to revise the operas in relation to pressures ranging from the logistical to the political. By viewing his revisions in their historical contexts, I argue that these works are part of a larger communal dialogue. Important undercurrents of meaning lie in what can be reconstructed of the dynamic processes leading up to the operas as we know them, offering insight into not only Adams’s compositional practice, but also into how art can—and cannot—respond to tragedy.  
Size: 35.6K bytes Modified: 20 August 2014, 09:03
Size: 36.9K bytes Modified: 23 September 2013, 10:58
Size: 29.8K bytes Modified: 18 September 2012, 10:09
Size: 23.7K bytes Modified: 6 October 2011, 10:05
Size: 20.1K bytes Modified: 27 October 2010, 20:14

  • Sean Beienburg, Department of Politics
  • Alice Cotter, Department of Music
  • Justene Hill, Department of Hill
  • Ashley Lazevnick, Department of Art and Archaeology
  • William Heath Pearson, Department of Anthropology 
  • Emily Prifogle, Department of History